In an Oscar telecast with few heavy favorites, the three reliables to Sunday night’s film fete delivered: Daniel Day-Lewis won Best Actor for Lincoln, becoming the first three-time lead actor winner; Anne Hathaway won her first Oscar, Best Supporting Actress for Les Miserables, and the awards-season momentum of Argo carried the Iran hostage thriller to Best Picture.
In the other top categories, Best Actress went to Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook, Best Supporting Actor went to Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained, and Best Director went to Ang Lee for Life of Pi.
But for the 85th Academy Awards, there were no clear favorites among the nearly 6,000 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. This was an Oscars in which the most-nominated film, Lincoln, won in only two of its 12 categories, Life of Pi won four of its 11 nominations, and Argo won in only three of its seven nominations. Even in the big-six categories there were no repeat film winners. There was even a tie: Skyfall and Zero Dark Thirty both won for Best Sound Mixing.
Unsurprisingly, it was a night in which almost everything seemed off.
It started with the part low-comedy stand-up routine, part-musical tribute, part-sketch-comedy routine of host Seth MacFarlane. Best known as the creator of a trio of Fox animated series — Family Guy, American Dad, and The Cleveland Show — and the writer-director of the biggest comedy film of 2012, Ted, MacFarlane always seemed to be an odd choice to host the Academy Awards. His humor is edgy, raunchy, and celebrity deflating — hardly the setting for the glitz and glamour of Oscars.
He mocked that persona and, perhaps, audience fear of the Oscars devolving into a frat party in an early bit in which he sang about the number of well-known actresses who appeared topless in films. The gag was part of a larger skit involving a time-traveling Captain Kirk (William Shatner hopefully in the captain’s chair for the last time) who came back to warn MacFarlane he would go down as the worst Oscar host in history. MacFarlane did have a few funny lines and a clever gag about Oscar presenter Christopher Plummer’s role as Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music, but there were also some rather insulting jokes as well, including about how “gay” the Oscars were with all its musical performances and the unintelligible pronunciations of Latino actors.
While I wouldn’t tab him as the worst Academy Awards MC, I would say that MacFarlane should now join a list of other one-and-done Oscar hosts (Chris Rock, Chevy Chase, Ellen DeGeneres, and David Letterman).
There were a few surprises, as well, beginning with the first presentation, Best Supporting Actor, as Waltz beat out a trio of presumptive favorites: Alan Arkin (Argo), Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook), and Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln).
Django Unchained is the second pairing of Waltz and writer-director Quentin Tarantino — a union that’s proven fruitful for both. In 2010 Waltz received his first Oscar, also for supporting, as a ruthless Nazi colonel in Tarantino’s bloody World War II revisionist history, Inglourious Basterds. Tarantino won a Best Original screenplay for both films as well.
“My unlimited gratitude goes to Dr. King Schltz, that is to his creator and the creator of his awe-inspiring world, Quentin Tarantino,” Waltz said in his second acceptance speech.
The acceptance speeches proved to be fairly benign, with most winners sticking to the script and thanking everyone and everything, with a few exceptions.
The often solemn Day-Lewis generated some laughs at the beginning of his speech, joking that he and his presenter, Meryl Streep, who won a Best Actress Oscar last year as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady, were originally up for each other’s roles. Ang Lee seemed humbled and surprised by his win, and maybe the most awkward pairing of the night occurred with Pixar’s Brave as it won Best Animation Film and its co-directors, Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman, took the stage. Chapman was essentially fired during the film’s production, but was nevertheless gracious and obviously happy to be there.
The big win of the evening, though, was to Ben Affleck, the director and star of Argo, who was snubbed for Best Director, but won an Oscar as one of three producers of the film.
Affleck, who shared a Best Original Screenplay with friend Matt Damon in 1998 for Good Will Hunting, and later had a career crisis with a serious of film flops, including 2003’s legendary Gigli, noted all of that roller-coaster history in his emotional speech.
“I just want to say, I was here 15 years ago or something and I had no idea what I was doing. I stood out here in front of you all and I was really just a kid. And I never thought that I would be back here, and I am because of so many of you who are here tonight. Because of this Academy and because of so many people who extended themselves to me when they had nothing to benefit from it in Hollywood. You know, I couldn’t get them a job. I want to thank them and I want to thank what they taught me, which is that you have to work harder than you think you possibly can. You can’t hold grudges — it’s hard — but you can’t hold grudges. But it doesn’t matter how you get knocked down in life, because that’s going to happen. All that matters is that you’ve got to get back up.”
As part of the Academy Awards celebration of 50 years of James Bond, Shirley Bassey performed the title song to 1964’s Goldfinger. Adele also performed her James Bond theme, the title track to Skyfall, which won Best Original Song.
Other winners include Chris Terrio for Best Adapted Screenplay (Argo), William Goldenberg for Best Editing (Argo), Austrian director Michael Haneke for Best Foreign Film (Amour, a French-language film), Mychael Danna for Best Musical Score (Life of Pi), and Claudio Miranda for Best Cinematography (Life of Pi). Miranda beat out 10-time Oscar nominee Roger Deakins (Skyfall), who has never won.
Contact Kirk Baird at: email@example.com or 419-724-6734.